KANSAS CITY -- The Blue Jays were dragging in the fifth inning on Sunday. Nothing was going their way. But along came Jose Bautista to the rescue.With the Jays trailing by two runs and facing the distinct prospect of a Royals' weekend series sweep, Bautista had the green light on
KANSAS CITY -- The Blue Jays were dragging in the fifth inning on Sunday. Nothing was going their way. But along came Jose Bautista to the rescue.
With the Jays trailing by two runs and facing the distinct prospect of a Royals' weekend series sweep, Bautista had the green light on a 3-0 Jason Hammel delivery with a runner at first.
"I'm just looking for a fastball in the zone," Bautista said.
Bautista got what he was looking for and didn't miss. His towering two-run homer to left traveled an estimated 450 feet. It was Bautista's third-longest home run recorded since Statcast™ started in 2015 and the longest homer for Bautista this year.
Bautista's picturesque blast was a case study in what's made him one of the Majors' most imposing sluggers for years now. The right-fielder entered the day having swung at only 20 percent of the pitches he had seen outside the zone this season, the 13th-lowest chase rate among 135 qualified hitters (min. 500 out-of-zone pitches seen) and right in line with the first two seasons of Statcast™ in which Bautista posted the third- (2016) and fifth-lowest (2015) chase rates in the league, respectively. Bautista spit on three outside pitches low-and-away from Hammel on Sunday before unleashing a mighty swing on the fastball.
Bautista's blast rocketed out to left-center, just to the left of the fountains at Kauffman Stadium; familiar territory for his homers both at home and on the road. A staggering 71 of Bautista's 75 home runs tracked by Statcast™ since the start of 2015 have gone to either left- or left-center field, and, like Sunday's big homer, his drives usually go there with authority. Entering Sunday, no right-handed hitter had averaged a longer distance on line drives and fly balls to those areas than Bautista at 316 feet. His 96.7 mph average exit velocity on those pulled balls in the air was also tied with Evan Longoria for the fourth-highest among righties since the dawn of Statcast™ (min. 300 batted balls), trailing only Yoenis Cespedes, former teammate Edwin Encarnacion and Manny Machado.
With that sudden jolt, it was as though the Jays heard the alarm bell. Second baseman Ryan Goins made a nice defensive play to avoid problems in the Royals' fifth, and then Toronto put five runs on the board in the sixth.
Bautista's no-doubt blast started him toward a four-RBI day. He now has 736 RBIs for the Jays, which ranks fourth in franchise history.
"If you feel like the (3-0 pitch) is in the zone, you go after it," Bautista said. "That's what I did and luckily he put one right there on the tee for me. Fastball. Middle-middle and up. I'm sure he wants that one back. Sometimes, pitchers make mistakes and hitters take advantage. I feel like that was one of those, especially when it was a 3-0 count."
Bautista had the go-ahead hit in the sixth when he hung in against side-wheeling righty Peter Moylan and employed his trademark patience once again to draw a bases-loaded walk. The 2-1 pitch was ruled to have missed the outside corner according to home-plate umpire John Tumpane, and Moylan protested vigorously before finishing the walk.
"I faced him the other night and he didn't quite give me anything good to hit," Bautista said. "I got a little anxious and struck out on balls that weren't in the zone."
This time, Bautista was patient and the walk put Toronto on top for good. Whether he was swinging or taking, Bautista had himself a day.
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City and covered the Blue Jays on Sunday.